Poor outside shooting was bound to catch up with Baylor at some point.
Desmond Bane torched Baylor in the second half, finishing with 23 points on 9-18 shooting and 5-8 from three. He single-handedly outshot the Bears from the three-point line. As a team, Baylor ended the game 4-17 from deep, and one of those threes came in garbage time when TCU led by double-digits.
Baylor found success going inside for most of the game. TCU’s pick and roll coverage was soft, intent on forcing Baylor into floaters and short jump shots. Those shots fell for the first three-quarters of the game. Not so in the final 10 minutes. The Bears went nearly six minutes without a field goal before Butler’s three with 1 minute remaining and had only 3 free throws in that stretch.
Jared Butler and Freddie Gillespie did their best to carry the team for most of the game. Gillespie turned in a 18 point, 17 rebound, 3 block performance on 7-9 shooting, while Butler also contributed 18 points and 9 rebounds. The collective shooting of Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague, and Devonte Bandoo (8-26 FG combined) was too much to overcome. Most of Butler’s scoring came from inside, as well, as he finished just 1-5 from three.
The Bears attempted a literal last minute comeback to make things interesting for the Frogs. Butler’s only three-point make brought the game to single digits, and a Teague three and three free throws brought Baylor within striking range if TCU missed their free throws, but Baylor’s containment on the inbounds failed twice, allowing for breakaway baskets that allowed TCU to hold the Bears at bay without too much stress.
Baylor’s brought its signature defense to the first half. TCU scored only 21 points and shot 7-26 (27%). The Horned Frogs went through multiple scoring droughts — a 5 minute scoreless stretch and a 1-12 stretch. Baylor’s gameplan was clearly to stay in front of Bane, who couldn’t find many open looks. Every drive and pull-up was contested.
The only thing keeping TCU in the game in the first half was Baylor’s offense, which shot a terrible 10% from three (1-10) and 37% from the line. That lone three didn’t come until 21 seconds remaining, despite multiple shooters taking open looks. It’s offensive numbers like this that could sink Baylor in a Tournament setting. On the other hand, the Bears were 10-21 from 2-point range, taking advantage of the soft TCU pick and roll defense.
TCU’s second half offense was a master class in shot making. They were much more patient, opting the swing the ball side to side until a shooter came open, rather than attempting to drive inside into the teeth of Baylor’s defense. The Frogs missed only 4 field goal attempts in the second half and were 7-8 in the paint. Seven of their 9 threes came after halftime, as well.
Baylor, meanwhile, had no major offensive adjustments. Until it was desperation time, Baylor passed up a number of looks from deep, opting instead to drive inside. Plenty of times they earned good shots or were fouled, but once again Baylor failed to take advantage of opportunities from the free throw line, where they were 14-22.
When teams play Baylor one-on-one and take away weak side shooters, the offense is limited. The Bears’ best offensive performances have come when they can push in transition and when they can make threes from the wings. TCU didn’t give them many chances at either today, managing to create a number of fast break opportunities of their own.
The conference title is still within reach, but dropping a game as winnable as this one makes it very difficult. Kansas has only one conference loss with games against TCU and at Texas Tech remaining. The best Baylor can reasonably hope for is that the Red Raiders give the Jayhawks a second loss in Big XII play, which would potentially allow Baylor to earn a share of the title. To do that, however, Baylor would need to win both at home against Tech on Monday and on the road in Morgantown Saturday. Those will both be tough games.
This loss does not nullify a historic season for Baylor, but it does dampen its spirits as the regular season nears its end.